Thursday, March 27, 2014

Paid in Full / Out of My Mind

Two stories from the Dec '51 issue of Astonishing #7, the first one possibly art credited to Harry Lazarus (looks like him to me), --and the second tale by John Romita! And how about that cool cover from the ever awesome Joe Maneely! My copy of this issue has definitely seen better days...


Mestiere said...

"I create nothing, I own."

—Gordon Gekko in Wallstreet

I'm glad to see that usury was still a sin in comic books back in the fifties. Jeremiah Leech was making profits out of owning money without producing anything new of value. His behavior was reprehensible but, ironically, he did nothing illegal. He was under no obligation to give Nathaniel Hastings any more time to pay. Had he accepted to give Hastings a chance it looks like he (Hastings) would still have died of cold on the way back to his farm and Leech would have ended up with the farm anyway.

"But I'm not a ghost! The news of my death wasn't true!" Now, that's a lie. It sort of removes any moral advantage that Nathaniel Hastings might have had. Not only was he delinquent in paying his debt but he was lying beyond the grave. It makes the morality of Leech's comeuppance rather ambiguous. In fact, Hastings initial point was that friends were better than money. I don't now that he proved that.

The second story, where a writer's creation seems to come to life reminded me of something mentioned by author John Keel in his terrific book The Mothman Prophecies:

There is an old house on a tree-lined street in New York’s Greenwich Village which harbors a strange ghost. Hans Holzer and other ghost-chasers have included the house in their catalogs of haunted places. The phantom has been seen by several people in recent years. It is dressed in a long black cape and wears a wide-brimmed slouch hat pulled down over its eyes as it slinks from room to room. Self-styled parapsychologists have woven all kinds of fantasies around this apparition. Obviously a spy from the revolutionary war was caught and killed in the old house.

But wait. This ghost may not be a member of the restless dead at all. There were never any reports of hauntings there until about twenty years ago, after the house was vacated by a writer named Walter Gibson.

He was, and is, an extraordinarily prolific author. For many years he churned out a full-length novel each month, and many of those novels were written in the house in Greenwich Village. All of them were centered around the spectacularly successful character Gibson created in the 1930s, that nemesis of evil known as The Shadow. If you have read any of The Shadow novels you know that he was fond of lurking in dark alleys dressed in a cape and broad-brimmed slouch hat.

That's right. Gibson's intense concentration seemed to have created a tulpa.

Enjoyed both stories.

Brian Barnes said...

There's a lot of yellow in that last story. Atlas coloring was always big and bold, with a lot of big splashes of color, though it's taught me that a yellow ceiling with red beams looks awful!

Both these are fun Atlas story, not great ones but regular, good reads. Some strange developmental problems that could have been fixed with stronger editing. In the first story, it's mentioned (quickly, in the caption) that Leech could never get, the family tomb. This setup the gotcha ending, but it's not obvious from the ending that this is the case, it just looks like the ghost tricked him.

Remember the Tales from the Darkside Episode that used "Paid in Full" as a ending? That was a great episode.

Second story wanderings in and out with out of the blue resolution, but the art is great and it's well paced.

I think that was the genius of Atlas, for every great story there was a lot of run-of-the-mill stories, but they were all entertaining to read, there were few clunkers.

JMR777 said...

Jeremiah LEECH (as in a bloodsucking parasite) the writer was quite 'subtle' in describing the heavy of this story.

Even in the fifties bankers and moneylenders were looked upon as misers and heartless Scrooges.

Mr. Cavin said...

Wow, dig that baby Romita stuff. Looking back through your archives, I see that you've posted early Romita Atlas work before. It's always been very good, but it's also been very much of its time--serving the chunky, textured Atlas style right alongside all the rest. But this one feels funkier, like the man is testing out the visual storytelling boundaries he'd really start to batter down in the silver age. Like that narrative collage at the bottom of page one; or, better, that neat panel beside it featuring a studio audience interacting directly with the reader. So cool. I like the way the splash panel figures into the story three times.

Grant said...

It's interesting to see a reference to John Keel. He's nearly the only "Fortean" writers who can scare me the same way as an actual horror writer!

Was OUT OF MY MIND written after the Frederick Wertham campaign (or at least campaigns like it) started? The first parts of the story make you think of them, like the line "They should be banned!"